Best First Lines...and Worst?

Over at Michael Berube's web site, there's a discussion going on about best first lines. I myself am a huge fan of the Lolita and the Anna Karenina and the One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I have to cast my vote for a couple of different ones. The funny thing is that these aren't necessarily my favorite books--the lines themselves are, at least to me, more memorable than the stories themselves.

1. The Bell Jar. "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."

2. "The Tell-Tale Heart": "True!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! But why will you say that I am mad?"

Votes, anyone?


Grendel said...

Here are three of my faves:

"Granted, I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me." -- The Tin Drum

"Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...." -- Portrait of the Artist

"I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an A train ..." -- Naked Lunch

Brando said...

A couple I really like:

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter." -- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

"They're out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them." -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"When I was eight, I was sent to live on a melon farm of an uncle -- a sixth grade dropout who attributed his IQ of 70 to sniffing gasoline from the age of five, and whose manner of compulsively clawing at the skin behind his neck was a characteristic sign of amphetamine toxicity." -- Et Tu, Babe

Tao Lin said...

lorrie moore:

"This was in a faraway land. There were gyms but no irony or coffee shops. People took things literally, without drugs."

thisbe said...

"Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year." --DeLillo, "Americana"

segall said...

A minor gem:

"That year an ill wind blew over the city and threatened to destroy flowerpots, family fortunes, reputations, true love, and several types of virtue." - William Kennedy, Roscoe

ian said...

"Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over." --Roth, Sabbath's Theater

kclou said...

The Garcia Marquez is without doubt my favorite, but let us not forget the late great Bellow. Where is the Chicago love from the Chicago contingent?

"I am an American, Chicago born--Chicago, that somber city--and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent."